Bringing your pet to Canada

Considering pets as a family is a growing trend in society today. Pets are kept primarily for company and entertainment. Human ownership of dogs as pets as suggested by archaeology dates back to 12,000 years ago. Ancient Greeks and Romans would openly mourn the loss of a dog and even go as far as leaving inscriptions on the tombstones of the pets to show their level of grieve. 

Many families who have pets, especially those who take them as family, contemplating starting life in Canada may wonder how to bring their pets or furry family members with them and also the requirements. This article is aimed at stating and explaining the requirements and how you can successfully bring your pet into Canada. 

Although there are certain restrictions and requirements, Canada’s import laws allow most domestic pets to be brought into the country. In 2017, over 57 percent of homes in Canada had pets and the most popular pets are cats and dogs.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates the importation of pets into Canada. Canada’s import requirements are in place to protect its people, plants, and animals by avoiding the introduction of animal diseases. So to successfully bring your pet to Canada, you will need appropriate paperwork that meets Canada’s import requirements. 

Animals brought into Canada are classified into personal import and commercial import. If your pet is traveling with you, the pet will be classified as a personal import but if the pet would not be accompanied by its owner or if the animal is being brought into the country for sales, adoption, scientific research, show, exhibition, or breeding, it is classified as a commercial import.

Pets that qualify as personal imports do not require permits. However, those who qualify as commercial imports require a permit. Applications for permits should be submitted 30 days before travel. It can be accessed on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website. 

Pets can be brought into Canada through different means of transportation (Car and Air). Traveling with pets can be quite stressful both for the pet and its owner; so it is advised that before traveling, you check in with a licensed vet to ensure that they are in good health condition to travel. 

Traveling in a car with a pet

For car travels with pets into Canada, the CFIA suggests that to keep everyone safe while traveling, pets should be contained to avoid distractions when driving, your pet should never be left in a parked car for extended periods as temperatures can change quickly inside a car and also, food and water should be provided for the pet while traveling and the pet should also be given time to rest and have leak breaks. 

Traveling by air with a pet

For air travels with pets, it is advised to first check with your airline, their guidelines for traveling with a pet before buying your ticket, so proper plans would be made for you and your pet.

Some airlines allow smaller animals in the cabin in certain carriers while other animals will have to travel in a specific travel enclosure separately from their owners or family. The guidelines differ by airline.

All dogs and cats entering Canada from all countries except the United States will be subject to inspection. Also, proof of rabies vaccination is required and a service fee of $30 is paid for the first animal and $5 for each additional animal.

When examined at the port entry, your pet (domestic dog and cat) must be free of diseases that are communicable to humans and if they are not in good health condition, at the owner expense, further examination will be required to be conducted by a licensed veterinarian. 

In Canada, no quarantine will be imposed on your pet as long as the import requirements are met unless otherwise stated. Some regulations that apply to domestic dogs, cats, and ferrets include Pet microchips, obtaining a health certificate for your pet, updating pets vaccination, testing, and administering medications. 

Pet Microchip

Although pets are not required to be identified with microchips in Canada, it is recommended that a fifteen (15) digit ISO 11784 compliant pet microchip be placed on the pet as a means of identification should your pet be separated from you or lost. 

Health Certificate 

The health certificate of your pet must be completed by a licensed veterinarian and must be in English or French. Canada does not accept three (3) years of rabies vaccination, so the health certificate should identify the animal, the date of its vaccination, the expiration date of the rabies vaccine, and the manufacturer of the rabies vaccine.


A health certificate or proof of current rabies vaccination will be needed when traveling with your pet to Canada. Also, a statement to prove that rabies has not existed in the originating country for six months must be made by a governmental authority or a licensed veterinarian in the originating country immediately preceding the shipment of your pet. 

Cats over 3 months of age and dogs over 8 months of age are considered rabies-free by Canada. Countries considered as rabies-free by Canada include; 

  • Australia
  • Finland
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • Fiji
  • Sweden
  • Japan
  • New Zealand  and
  • United Kingdom (England,  Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)

Pets (Dogs and cats) under 3 months of age if entering Canada with their owners, are exempted from import requirements. Medically certified guide dogs are also exempted from import requirements as long as the dog is accompanied by its user or owner. If flying into Canada, all dogs under 8 months for commercial purposes must enter as air cargo. 

For pets other than dogs and cats, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has specific requirements for them too. For aquatic pets, there are various restrictions on different species. Rodents from certain countries are restricted.

For horses, certification is required. Rabbits, ferrets, skunks, foxes, and raccoons require a permit and they will be quarantined. For birds, a permit is needed from the local CFIA office in the destination province.

The importation of birds from certain countries is banned by Canada and it also has additional requirements from others. The importation of birds into Canada is subject to the control of the Canadian wildlife service.

There are no restrictions for amphibians and reptiles except turtles and tortoises. Exotic pets listed under the Convention on International  Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) are controlled through a permit system. A permit is required if you are traveling with a pet listed under the CITES as an exotic pet. It is also illegal to bring in a CITES-listed animal/pet across Canada without an appropriate CITES permit. 


Following the above-stated requirements and regulations, pet owners should feel confident in bringing their furry family members along with them on their journey to Canada. 

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